LEEInks list: Most accomplished non-champions
|07.19.10 at 7:15 am ET|
When LeBron James made the televised “Decision” on July 8 that he was headed to South Beach to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to play for the Heat, he left millions of devastated Cavs fans renouncing their love for the King and a few other disappointed franchises who were hoping LeBron would help lead them to a title.
“Winning is a huge thing to me,” he said to Jim Gray in the ESPN special watched by 7 million viewers.
After weeks of nationwide scrutiny and speculation about where James would end up, it didn’t come as such a shock to many questioning the King’s star status without a single title to his name.
James, a two-time NBA MVP who has yet to capture an NBA championship in his seven seasons with Cleveland, left over $30 million on the table in his decision to head south and play with former gold medalist Olympic teammates Wade and Bosh in a Miami power trio.
“The major factor was this is the best opportunity for me to win and win now and in the future. The No. 1 thing with me is to help my teammates get better and to win,” he said explaining his “Decision.”
Here’s a list of the most accomplished athletes without a title in sports history. Though they’ve graced the record books and their respective games as some of the best players to touch the field, court, or ice, they can never call themselves champions.
King James can win all the accolades around, but he’ll stay stuck in a category with these guys until he adds an NBA crown to that list.
MLB: Ty Cobb
Since Cobb took the field in 1905, he has been etched in MLB record books as one of the greatest baseball players of all time and still maintains the record for the highest career batting average (.367). Many of his other professional records, including most career hits, most career runs, most career runs, and most career games played, he held for a half-century or more.
Four times in his career Cobb reached first, stole second, stole third and stole home in the same inning. He held the record for most career stolen bases (892) until 1977. But in his 22 years with the Tigers, and five with the Philadelphia Athletics, he could never steal a World Series ring.
MLB: Ted Williams
Widely remembered as baseball’s greatest hitter, Williams was a two-time American League MVP, led the league six different times in batting, and won the Triple Crown twice. But he could never call himself a World Series champion in all his seasons with the Red Sox (1939-42, 1946-60).
When Williams made it to the majors in 1939, he led the American League in RBI and finished fourth in MVP voting. By 1941, Williams would secure a spot in history he still holds today. The last day of that season, Williams started the day with a .400 batting average and decided to play in both games of a doubleheader despite the risk of falling short of .400 and losing out on the record. Williams played and finished out the day with a .406 average. No one playing after him has hit a .400 season since. His .551 on-base percentage for 1941 remained a record until Barry Bonds surpassed it in 2002.
Williams’ All-Star Game in the same year, which concluded with a three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of ninth to win the game 7-5 for the American League, is one of his most outstanding moments as a player. The 1946 World Series, in which he picked up only five singles and just one RBI in 25 at-bats as the Sox to lost to St. Louis in seven games, was not one of his shining moments.
NBA: Elgin Baylor
Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor played 13 seasons as a forward for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers from 1958-71. In 1958, he passed up his senior year at Seattle University and entered the NBA as the first overall pick in the draft. The acrobatic offensive force finished his first season as the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, finishing fourth in the league in scoring (24.9), third in rebounding (15.0) and eighth in assists (4.1). He took the Lakers (33-39) to second place in the Western Division that year, 14 wins better than the season before, and all the way to the NBA finals, where they were swept by the Celtics.
Though he played in 11 All-Star Games (1959-65, 1967-70), he only served as fuel to the Celtics-Lakers title rivalry and never won a championship (the Celtics won 11 of 13 titles from 1956-57 through 1968-69). Even playing alongside Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain for three seasons (1968-69 through 1970-71), Baylor never brought a title home. The Lakers finally won it in 1972, but he had retired nine games into the season due to nagging knee problems.
NBA: Karl Malone
Malone brought home gold medals on the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Dream Teams, but he never got his hands on the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The two-time NBA MVP (’97, ’99) is one of nine players to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy more than once. He played in 12 of 14 All-Star Games he was selected to play in, and he was named MVP in All-Star Games in 1989 and 1993.
After Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Malone is ranked No. 2 for all-time points scored, with 36,374, and maintains the NBA record for the most consecutive seasons scoring 2,000 points or more (11, 1987-88 to 1997-98). He also shares the record with Michael Jordan for most career 2,000-point seasons.
Though Malone played against the Bulls in NBA finals series in 1997 and 1998, he never won a championship in his 19 seasons playing professional basketball (1985-86 to 2002-03 with the Jazz, 2003-04 with the Lakers). The Jazz retired Malone’s No. 32 jersey in 2006 and set up a bronze statue of the power forward outside EnergySolutions Arena, though he never made a champion out of Salt Lake City.
NFL: Barry Sanders
Despite playing 10 seasons with the Lions, earning Pro Bowl honors for each one, and being named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1989, Offensive Player of the Year in 1994 and 1997, and NFL MVP in 1997, Sanders never got a championship ring.
The closest the Lions ever got to the Super Bowl was their 1991 season, when Sanders’ 1,855 combined rushing/receiving yards and 17 touchdowns contributed to a 12-4 regular-season record, and a playoff win over Dallas in the divisional playoffs. The Redskins ended the Lions’ run in the NFC championship game with a 41-10 decision, holding Sanders to just 59 yards that game. The Lions’ next four appearances in the playoffs while Sanders was on the team were snuffed in the first round. The elusive running back never played in a Super Bowl game.
NFL: Warren Moon
On top of Moon’s recognition by both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame — one of only two people to be enshrined in both — he is also the first, and only, modern African-American quarterback elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bouncing between five franchises — the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, Houston Oilers, Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs, Moon held a number of CFL and NFL records before they were surpassed by the likes of Damon Allen and Brett Favre. He threw over 4,000 yards four times and recorded over 30 touchdowns twice.
The nine-time Pro Bowl selection never made it beyond the divisional championship round of the playoffs and never participated in a Super Bowl.
NHL: Marcel Dionne
Dionne never won a Stanley Cup despite his spot on the Kings’ Triple Crown line with Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor. He ranks fourth in all-time goals scored (713), ninth in assists (1,040), and fifth in points (1,771), certifying him as one of the most talented NHL players of all time.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992, Dionne was ranked No. 38 on the The Hockey News’ list of the 100 greatest hockey players. When Ray Bourque won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001, Dionne became the highest-ranking player on the list to never get his name etched on the Stanley Cup. The closest Dionne ever got was the second round of the playoffs in all his time playing for the Red Wings, Kings and Rangers.
NBA: Charles Barkley
“Sir Charles” became a household name in the NBA for his strong, aggressive nature both on the court and off over 16 years in the NBA. But Barkley, an 11-time All-Star (1987-1997), one-time All-Star Game MVP (1991), one-time regular-season MVP (1993), and two-time Dream Team gold medalist (1992, 1996), was a zero-time NBA champion.
As the fifth draft pick in 1984 by the 76ers, two after Michael Jordan, Barkley played eight seasons in Philadelphia (1984-85 to 1991-92), four in Phoenix (1992-93 to 1995-96), and four in Houston (1996-97 to 1999-00). The stocky forward, nicknamed the “Round Mound of Rebound,” measured 6-foot-5 and was the shortest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding when he averaged 14.6 rebounds per game in 1986-87. He is one of four players in NBA history to amass at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists (along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone).
Despite his infamy as a controversial aggressor in the game of basketball with his “I am not a role model” campaign and mistaken spitting incident over a young girl, as well as on-court brawls with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Oakley, Barkley was loved by the media and his fans — named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History — if not by the NBA championship gods; he made it to the finals just once with the Suns, when they lost to Chicago, 4-2, in 1993.
NFL: Dan Marino
Marino may forever be known for being the best quarterback to never win a Super Bowl. The Hall of Famer holds records for most yards passing in a season (5,084 in 1984), most games with 400 or more yards passing in a career (13) and most games with 300 or more yards passing in a career (63). At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held almost every offensive record for quarterbacks, but he never held the Vince Lombardi Trophy as a Super Bowl champion.
In his 17 years with the Dolphins (1983-99), Marino’s only opportunity to win the big game came in 1984, when the Dolphins dropped a 38-16 decision to Joe Montana and the 49ers. While many of his records have been broken in recent years, the one stat that sticks with Marino is his lack of a Super Bowl championship.
MLB: Barry Bonds
With his record-setting seven MVP awards — four occurring in consecutive seasons (2001-04) — the all-time home run record (762) and the single-season home run record (73), Bonds stands out in the minds of fans everywhere. The BALCO steroid scandal has something to do with that, too.
Bonds also was an eight-time Gold Glove winner as a National League outfielder, a 12-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and an All-Star 14 times. He even shares a record as just one of two guys to have had two single-season slugging percentages over .800 (.863 in 2001 and .812 in 2004) — the other slugger being Babe Ruth.
Unlike the Babe, though, Bonds never won a World Series championship; he and the Giants let the big one slip away in seven games against the Angels in 2002.
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